In Haiti, the legalization of thugs

Paramilitaries.jpg
Haitian paramilitaries flaunt the law and the constitution

By Ilio Durandis, Caribbean Journal, April 4, 2012

Just when one believed that Haiti could not reach a lower point, everything is pointing to an even lower abyss for the prideful and history-rich nation. It is an abomination to read quotes from people who have the ears of the most powerful person in the country calling for the legalization of a bunch of thugs running wild in the country.

Yes, I am referring to those so-called former soldiers who have found a way to make noise, amid current controversies surrounding the president and members of his cabinet.

These people in uniform with illegal guns are not soldiers, and should never be referred as such. From a legal standpoint, Haiti currently does not have an army. The only Haitian recognized force that can carry arms is the National Police (PNH). Usually, an army promotes strong ethics, honor, pride, discipline, and high moral values. The wannabe soldiers display very few of these essentials. When thugs with guns are allowed to roam freely in a society, only one outcome is certain: terror on the civilian population.

There is no room to negotiate with these violators of Haitian laws. If the executive did not sign a decree for the army’s remobilization, then it is the government’s duty to protect the citizens of the nation by taking appropriate actions to dismantle and disarm these thugs.

The National Palace is where every major decision takes place: from which city must host Haiti’s national carnival to how many children will get the chance to attend school for free. Haiti, a relatively small country, is one that has been micromanaged for years. Nothing gets sanctioned in this country without the approval of the higher-ups. In that scope, for a solution to the disbanded soldiers’ situation, the micromanager must make a decision.

It might seem as if it is not a serious threat now, but having guns in the wrong hands in an already-chaotic country can lead to further trouble. The president, members of his cabinet, parliament and the judicial branch need to act fast, swift, and strong. A message must be sent to anyone who would have the intention of forming an illegal militia in the country. The 1987 Constitution still recognizes the Haitian Armed Forces. However, only by following the proper procedure should a new army be mobilized.

So far, the President has publicly denounced these people, but more must be done. This is a test of leadership, political control and definitely transparency in government. If the president is not the commander-in-chief of those would-be soldiers, then they are either an invading force or a rebel group, and the law will side with the President to seek their dismantling.

The government needs to order the National Police to take action. An order is not the same as advice. The presence of the Mission des Nations Unies pour la Stabilisation d’Haiti (MINUSTAH) is on our soil to stabilize the country, and this group of former soldiers and new recruits is a destabilized force in the country. Working with the government of the republic, the UN mission must act within its mandate to stabilize the situation.

During the campaign season, the president promised to revive the disbanded army, a promise that I support. However, we cannot go back in a destructive past to build a promising future. There might be many ways to bring back the army, but none of them should include people who are holding public spaces hostage, and carrying illegal guns in the major streets of the country. This is an unacceptable situation.

As of now, it does not really matter who is funding these thugs. All branches of government have a responsibility to protect the lives and goods of all citizens. Having an illegal militia in our midst is reason enough for many to feel insecure. An ounce of insecurity can destroy a ton of positive outreach. This government is working to promote a new image for the country through a revival of tourism and a foreign policy centering on investment and commerce. It is thus imperative to disarm these people, who should not be armed, and to create an atmosphere of civility, peace, and, above all, order.

When thugs with guns are parading on the streets with no worries of any judicial repercussion, it is a sign of anarchy, lawlessness, and complete entropy. In such an atmosphere, it is not possible for right-minded people to invest or visit.

If the country’s legal forces cannot deal with a few people who have in their possession illegal guns, then how will it protect the goods of the investors, and the lives of its citizens? The time for making a mockery out of the Haitian citizenry has passed.

In the last elections, the people voted for change, not continuity. They voted for forward movement, not more backwardness. Haiti was founded on the bravery of former slaves-turned-soldiers. An army is a constitutional mandate, but the constitution does not allow anyone to breach the Rule of Law. A nation that fails to take little threats seriously cannot deal with bigger threats when they arise.

If this situation does not get resolved soon, the talk will not be about disbanding thugs, but rather how to legalize them. And when that happens, the clock will not only move backward, but the very essence of individual freedom and national development will be at risk.

Ilio Durandis, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is the founder of Haiti 2015, a social movement for a just and prosperous Haiti. He is a columnist with The Haitian Times. Follow him on Twitter: @durandis.